What is lawyer competence?

Many legal malpractice lawsuits in California hinge on the lawyer’s competence. However, do you really understand what competence means and how it relates to the legal services you received from that attorney? These are important concepts to understand if you want to evaluate your legal malpractice case. 

The American Bar Association notes lawyer competence is part of the rules concerning the client-lawyer relationship. The competence rule has a couple parts. First, the lawyer must have the proper legal knowledge and skill. This means your attorney needs to know and understand the area of law in which you are seeking help. So, if your lawyer practices only bankruptcy law and you go to him or her with a criminal law case, that lawyer should not take the case because his or her knowledge is in bankruptcy law. Unless he or she has some background in criminal law, offering competent legal representation would be difficult.

The second part is your lawyer must be thorough and prepare properly for your case. This is the work your attorney puts into your case. It includes ensuring evidence is collected and analyzed, paperwork is completed properly, documents are filed on time, court procedures are followed and the lawyer builds a case to help you win. While you are never guaranteed to win a case, your attorney should do everything he or she possibly can to work towards a win. 

If your attorney does not provide competent representation, then you will not get the representation you need. This information is intended for education and not as legal advice.